At what age
should you take your children skiing?
watched multicoloured snakes of tiny children on the ski slopes, many parents
are desperate to take their own offspring skiing. They have this idea of what
fun it would be to glide elegantly en
famille down the blue runs, their grateful children glowing with health and
grinning from ear to ear...
It can happen like that, and when it does
there’s nothing better, but there’s a lot of work along the way before you
arrive at that stage.
can start to ski a little at two, if they are confident, co-ordinated and
relatively fearless. Boys seem to take to it earlier than girls, perhaps
because they don’t have the intelligence to imagine how much careering into a
tree could hurt! But you need good weather, good snow, a very gentle nursery
slope and lots of time and patience, one to one. They can manage about an hour
per day, probably at lunchtime, when the weather is warmer and the slopes at
the best preparation for skiing is tobogganing. The combination of speed,
terror and lack of control is good practice. Beware, however: sledges are
faster and more dangerous than skis. You need to pick your slope very
When two year olds are ready to start skiing, don’t be fobbed off
imitations of skis: they should have proper little skis and rear-entry
boots, but will not need poles. They must have sunglasses or goggles.
won’t be skiing fast enough to crash hard by themselves, but could
always be fallen
on by a twenty-stone beginner, or hit by a drag lift, so a helmet is
olds will probably start by being pulled along the flat, holding the end of one
of your poles. After half an hour or so they’ll be ready to be carried or
dragged a few yards up a gentle slope, and allowed to slide back into the arms
of Mummy, or someone else in whom they have total confidence (probably not
as young as their third birthday, children can learn to go up the drag lift and
ski back down in gorgeous little parallel turns, though still only for about an
hour per day. A parent can help with the initial stages, such as getting used
to the drag lift. You put one of your skis between the child’s, put the drag
between your own legs, and push the child along with your leg. But most parents
are survival skiers, getting down the piste in spite of their technique, not
because of it. Children learn largely through imitation so they need someone
technically perfect to copy. If you can get an instructor from your own
country, it makes life a lot easier. Children find even practically bilingual
foreigners very confusing.
easiest way for them to learn is with a private instructor per child. This is
very expensive. You can halve the price by sharing the lesson between two
children, but with two tiny beginners an instructor spends most of his time
rushing between them, preventing wipe-outs and tantrums. It costs half as much,
and each child learns a quarter as much and enjoys it a tenth as much! Ski holidays
are expensive, but if you want your children to learn to ski and be happy there
is no alternative to spending a bit more.
your child can get on and off lifts alone, you can start thinking about shared
lessons or even ski school, so long as classes are small and lessons relatively
short. But don’t rush them. Skiing is only meant to be a bit of fun. If they
are as happy tobogganing or building a snowman, let them.
If you would like to try your 3-year old on skis, the options are:
1) take the child to the ESF
for a two-hour test lesson from 10.30-12.30 for €43. If the instructor
thinks the child is
up to it, he or she will be accepted into their children's gardens
(Jardins des Neiges), which they advertise as being for 4-5 year olds.
The ESF has one on the nursery slopes, and another at La Daille, but
go up to 6 children per instructor, or 8 during French school holidays.
The prices are listed on the ESF page
on this website, but you can spend up to €25 per hour for
an eighth of an instructor. Private lessons on the other hand, which cost between €46 and
€70 per hour, depending upon time, date and demand, sound like a better
investment. Lunchtime is the cheapest time.
offers 90-minute lessons for a maximum of three 3-year olds, 9.00-10.30
or 10.30-12.00, Monday-Friday for €345 for five days. That comes out to about €46 per
hour. For just €60 per hour (low season) they can give private two-hour
lessons normally over lunchtime (the ideal time because the slopes are
emptier) or in the afternoon.
do not accept 3-year olds in group lessons, but give private lessons
over lunch or in the afternoon for €50 per hour. If you manage to get
Valérie or someone like her your child will enjoy his or her holiday as
much as you do, and probably end up skiing better than you!
take a private lesson with one of the boutique ski schools, where you
are very likely to have a British instructor whom the child will
probably understand more easily, or a freelance private instructor specialising in teaching children. Mountain Masters,
subject of course to availability, offer one or two-hour private
lessons, normally in the afternoon, at €60 per hour. Tansy is absolutely
brilliant with small children. The Development Centre (TDC) offer three-hour private lessons for €225. Progression
recommend booking an instructor between several of you (€235 for three
hours) and allowing the child to take as much of the lesson as he or she
wants, and New Generation offer two hours for €169. Yann Le Bozec
is a one-man ski school who is also brilliant at teaching children. An
hour's private lesson for one person at lunchtime costs €50.
4-year olds vary
hugely. Some will schuss black runs. Some will sit down and cry.
Most can learn to go up the baby drag lifts on the nursery slopes and
the basics of skiing.
three- or four-year old with, say, twenty hours’ experience on the nursery
slopes can probably manage to ski a green run with his or her parents. And that
will be the proudest moment of your life! And if they don’t get there until
they’re six or eight, who cares? As one Brit living in a ski resort was
recently heard to say, ‘My lad skied red runs at three, blacks at four, bumps
and slalom at five, and got his adult Giant Slalom badge at six. But he still
can’t write his own name!”
If your child is going to ski, getting a good instructor is the
a successful holiday. There are comprehensive descriptions
of all Val d'Isère's ski schools on this
website. Contact the ski schools as early as possible
to be sure of a place in the right class or, if you are
a private instructor, to get their best person. Fiona
Easdale in our UK office knows a number of excellent teachers.
Even at four years old, lessons will only last about two hours each
day, so unless parents of small children have help, most of their
holiday will be devoted to child-minding.
Ski lessons must be booked
For full details of both Childcare and Ski Schools please click on the links given.